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DOE Announces over $1 Billion in Biofuels R&D Projects this Year

WASHINGTON, DC - As part of the Bush Administration's ongoing commitment to invest in clean energy technologies to meet growing energy demand while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman today announced the selection of four biofuels projects in which DOE plans to invest up to $7.7 million.  These projects will demonstrate the thermochemical conversion process of turning grasses, stover, the non-edible portion of crops and other materials into biofuel.  Combined with today's announcement, just this calendar year, DOE has announced over $1 billion in funding for biofuels research and development (multi-year funding) projects.

"We are committed to expanding the sustainable production and use of biofuels and these projects will help develop cleaner methods for turning a wide variety of feedstocks into fuel," Secretary Bodman said. "Successful completion of these projects stands to redefine the way we produce America's fuels and follows the President's call to end our dependence to oil."

These R&D projects will help further President Bush's goal of making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive with gasoline by 2012 and, along with increased automobile fuel efficiency, reduce America's gasoline consumptions by 20 percent in ten years.  This research promises to more efficiently eliminate contaminants generated during the thermochemical production of biofuels.

Combined with the industry cost share, more than $15.7 million is slated for investment in these four projects.  Negotiations between the selected companies and DOE will begin immediately to determine final project plans and precise funding levels.  Funding will begin in Fiscal Year 2008 and will run through FY 2010, subject to Congressional appropriations.

As part of DOE's effort to meet the President's goal of reducing U.S. gasoline consumption by 20 percent in ten years, other biofuels research and development projects announced this year include: $385 million for commercial-scale biorefineries (6 projects being pursued); $200 million for pilot-scale (10%) biorefineries to test novel refining processes; over $400 million for three bioenergy centers - funding originally include $375 million, but an early surge of funds allowed for an additional $30+ million; and $23 million for "ethanologen" to develop more efficient microbes for ethanol refining.

The following four projects were competitively selected for negotiation of awards:

Emery Energy Company of Salt Lake City, Utah
Emery Energy Company has partnered with Ceramatec, Inc. and the Western Research Institute to demonstrate a new, low-cost, novel way to mitigate tars and oils in biomass synthesis gas while also managing other impurities.  This project will also verify the technical viability of using the resulting clean synthesis gas in a downstream liquid fuel catalysis process.  EEC intends to use a 'high impact' biomass such as corn stover as the high impact biomass for their project.  DOE will provide up to $1.7 million for the $2.9 million project.

Iowa State University of Ames, Iowa
Iowa State, in partnership with ConocoPhillips Company, will test an integrated biomass to liquids system that uses gas cooling through oil scrubbing rather than water scrubbing in order to minimize waste water treatment.  Switchgrass will be the biomass feedstock fed into the gasifier.  The gas-oil scrubbing liquid will then be sent to a coker in existing petroleum refining operations to be used as a feedstock.  ConocoPhillips' proprietary sulfur removal technology will also be incorporated into the gas cleanup.  Non-proprietary methods will be used to remove ammonia, chloride and other alkali materials.  DOE will provide up to $2 million for the $5.2 million project.

Research Triangle Institute of Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
Research Triangle Institute, in partnership with North Carolina State University and the University of Utah, will generate syngas derived from woody biomass.  A dual fluidized bed reactor will allow continuous regeneration of a catalyst that can simultaneously reform, crack, and remove tar, NH3 and H2S down to ppm levels.  During Phase 2, RTI will design and build a slurry bubble column reactor system to convert the clean syngas into a liquid transportation fuel.  DOE will provide up to $2 million for the $3.1 million project.

Southern Research Institute of Birmingham, Alabama
In collaboration with Pall Corporation, Thermochem Recovery International, and Rentech, Southern Research Institute will use a 1 megawatt thermal biomass gasifier to generate syngas.  The proposed ceramic filter technology and proven gas cleanup sorbent and catalyst system is expected to exceed the required contaminant removal levels specified by Rentech.  The unique cleanup technology will be coupled with a conventional scrubber and polishing filter downstream.  DOE will provide up to $2 million for the $4.5 million project.

Cellulosic ethanol is a clean, renewable fuel made from a wide variety of non-food plant materials (or feedstocks), including agricultural wastes such as corn stover and cereal straws, industrial plant waste like saw dust and paper pulp, and energy crops grown specifically for fuel production like switchgrass.  By using a variety of regional feedstocks for refining cellulosic ethanol, the fuel can be produced in nearly every region of the country.  Though it requires a more complex refining process, cellulosic ethanol requires less fossil fuels for production and results in lower greenhouse emissions than traditional corn-based ethanol.  E-85, an ethanol-fuel blend that is 85-percent ethanol, is already available in more than 1,200 fueling stations nationwide and can power millions of flexible fuel vehicles already on the road.

Media contact(s):

Julie Ruggiero, (202) 586-4940